In a chat with someone this week I characterised 2019 as the ‘Stuck or Chuck’ year. Many complain of feeling stuck and not achieving lift off. Meanwhile, others, including ourselves, have had a huge over haul of ‘stuff’. And while it has been hard to get things to completion on some tasks, or a real struggle to, on balance I would say this is the year of ‘chuck’. We have been through so many drawers and cupboards. Yes, there are some boxes remaining. Yes, the kitchen cupboards need their annual overhaul still.
No subject is too mundane to not be potentially transcendental. At least in the early hours of the day, when you really are a night owl. But it was still dark when poetry practice called.
Everyone has got one. That drawer full
of catchall, untamed, uncategorised
bits, bobby pins, bats, half-chewed rubber balls.
I heard a psychiatrist on the radio recount
strategy with a a suicidal patient’s call
during another client’s fifty minutes.
She said just go an tidy a drawer until
She’d ring back in twenty.
He was calmer on the call back.
He had dispensed with death
as a persuasive option
when appraising the matched and folded array
of an ordered sock drawer.
We all have that drawer.
Sometimes we empty the contents
into a box
and slide it under the bed,
or to the back of a closet,
out into the shed, or the far cobwebbed…
The Sunday Weekly Poem turns out to be a series of poems in this edition. While I may not write a poem a day these days, I find that I feel better if I do write something fairly often. I have drafts of three poems and a haiku from this week, which also included leading an outdoor walk and writing workshop with some Reluctant Writers from Loughan House Open Prison. It involved walking around a blustery Cavan Burren from just before 10AM until nearly 3PM, a picnic lunch, and then some writing. The outing began with a brief shower. The heavy shower mercifully held off until 2pm (thank you, weather gods!) by which time we were hunkered down in the Visitor Centre with notebooks out and writing exercises underway. We wrote to the patter of rainfall on the shelter of the plastic roof, on picnic tables on the side of the centre avoiding the prevailing wind. We were out in open air, but writing in a building with only gable ends for walls. That in itself must have been a bit of a culture shock for some guys who until recently will have spent time in cells for twenty-three hours of every twenty-four.
Nature can be a great inspiration, even a healer. Those half dozen workshop participants can wander an open prison’s campus, itself a bit of an adjustment initially I am told. Some find it difficult to walk outside their rooms when they first arrive. One past resident confided in my husband that the sight of a full moon after five years made him weep. To then look down upon that very campus from a height, surrounded by mountains and loughs on all sides, has to shift perspective on some level. To walk in the woods and smell spruce, lichen and moss is to breathe a new kind of clean air. To walk among dolmens and wonder at how on earth they shifted those rocks to build them sparks questions, as well as the imagination. A walk in the woods among megaliths really can take you out of yourself. The ancestors are very palpable on the Cavan Burren and that did not go unnoticed by some. One participant said he had not realised how close to wilderness they were here in West Cavan and you could see the awe.
One thing these guys teach us is never to take this glorious landscape for granted. It’s a privelege to see it with fresh eyes again and again.
It’s autumn for sure now. Our Virginia Creeper has gone crimson. On Monday there was some sunshine between showers and it was warm enough to sit outside. At least for a bit.
And Just Like That
As if in response to my own despondency
the clouds rolled in blotting out the sun breezing in a spit spot of rain on my writing thumb
driving me and semi-dry laundry indoors again.
That may have been the last blink of sun for sitting out now autumn has truly begun.
Then on Tuesday, as if to underline the official arrival of the season, I heard the whooper swans return to Lough Moneen where they overwinter from Iceland. The Whoopers have yellow bills instead of the orange ones. They also have a honk that some mistake for geese. Their winter sojourn in Ireland lasts between October to March. They are earlier than usual this year, with some friends reckoning they don’t usually turn up locally until near Halloween. On Wednesday, I saw a formation flypast. They often return to the same loughs each winter. One New Year’s Day I opened our front door and the first sight of the New Year was a flight of swans. Which certainly counts as a very special omen. But that was before I knew about the Omen Day tradition. (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/26/the-omen-days/)
Yesterday I heard the whooper swans trumpet song
Arriving in an elegant slide on water
Neighbour's lough their winter home, they honk 'Halló'
A long trip, eight hundred miles or more for six months
That's their flight back and forth from Iceland. 'Bless, bless' Bye!
It’s been a noisy week. Hasn’t everyone experienced some kind of sound and fury? It’s been inescapable one way or the other. I had a poem written and ready to go last evening, but I decided to honour the original rhythm of writing the poem a day over 365 consecutive days. I set the alarm to make sure I would rise early. I didn’t need its pinging in the end, for my sleep cycle this week has been as erratic as those geological glacial remains that rocked and rolled over the landscape that I call home. I was up early and saw the dawn.
So, in the spirit of Samuel Becket’s saying that poems are prayers, I offer this little poem from my journal penned on rising today. It was how I declared the day ‘sabbath’, a day of rest.
Let there be one morning without rush, that the dawn is bejewelled in its hush. Let the sun rise golden and bleeding on Playbank's horizon, day seeding as rain drips from the eaves land all lush.
Let there be one morning without rush. Let there be one morning celebrating this hush.
Trawling through the archive it is interesting to see how the news cycle may have gone around and around, but that still certain reactions to past news can feel current. We had the new moon this weekend and this was my response to the 2018 Libra New Moon
There was a fashion in creating ‘found poems’ or ‘cut-outs’ from sometime back in the mists of poetry time. Probably the late 60s when those who were there can’t remember. Today I decided to create a chorus of women’s voices, taking direct quotes from articles or newsletters I have read this morning. It is a New Moon today in Libra, ruled by that most feminine of goddesses, Venus. Sky and astrology watchers will have noted that Venus is currently retrograde, seemingly stationary, or moving backwards (rapidly towards the Dark Ages.) Today’s poetry practice, or journalling as I am coming to think of it, is playing with a different kind of cut and paste. Also, I want to celebrate women’s voices. We want to be heard.
I won’t keep my chorus Greek, masked and anonymous. The quotes are not in order, but feature the words of Barbara Kingsolver, Jude Lally,Chani Noble…
Some people do Spring cleaning. But the autumn equinox is a similar good time to clean up and clear out. In our household we have been in a process of turning out cupboards, emptying boxes, donating to textile banks and charity shops, and generally reorganising everything. And soon enough we will be attending to the outdoors, clearing the gutters and putting the garden to bed for the winter. We have a lot of green tomatoes and these will have to be turned into pie and chutney.
All this clearing is really about trying to achieve some symmetry, a pleasing harmony out of what is often unruly and messy. Therefore, human. We strive for balance. But will settle, quite happily, for tidier.
Others refer to this week of equal day and equal night as one of the two hinges of the year. Some years you barely hear a creak. But this year it must have been rusty for all the groaning. I am writing this in the evening of the new moon in Libra, that sign of harmony and balance. This is what we all say we want, but gosh the world is awfully addicted to drama! Nor am I immune, given that I was having vulnerability melt downs over the writing on and off all week.
The Sunday Weekly Poem considers this time of year, the clearing, the exertion for balance.
How was your Equinox week?
She died Monday just after the sidereal clock said equinox. Equal light. Equal night.
Though this year there were a few more days before it was truly equal light and night
and they laid her down with her final rites on that day that was equally day and night
This is balance.
A beloved, ancient lady surrounded by five generations descending
as she was put into the ground that day when hours were equal day and night.
This is balance.
This is balance.
Though difficult to negotiate those clefts in the heart
where the love's let in and the artery flushes sorrow out.
Like the eye in the sharp needle where the angels dance en pointe.
Or the loom's shuttle, the warp and weft its in and out back and forth
the thread, the sharpened scissors cutting off and the darning back in of that loose tail end.
We are travelling to Mayo tomorrow for a funeral, which prompted me to seek out this poem from the archive. Irish funerals, especially those in rural districts, are highly ritualised. As the final rite they are very moving.
In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin. There are forms of words and people who may not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved…
Poetry practice was delayed until evening today. But I have kept up with a poem a day now for a week. Wouldn’t Miss Mildred be impressed if I had been as diligent with my piano etudes as I have been with pounding out words.
The sunset last night was inspiration for today’s offering. Yesterday was very rich in countless ways. Wholly, a gift. The Haiku PoeTree Walk on the Cavan Burren had a relaxed group. A frog hopped out at us at the Calf Hut Dolmen, which felt like I little benediction from the haiku master Basho. (Who was a cat man if his haiku on Love and Barley is to be believed. Given that that this week a certain cat has often hovered close by during poetry practice. I suspect he is auditioning for the position as muse.)
But it isn’t haiku, but a kind of elation that came…